What Is Potassium Bicarbonate?

Are you getting enough potassium in your diet?

Potassium is an important mineral and electrolyte. It works in your nervous and skeletal systems, controls the electrical activity of your heart, and is involved in blood pressure control. Potassium bicarbonate is one available form of potassium supplement.

Most people can receive enough potassium through certain foods. However, some health conditions or medications may cause low potassium levels. In this case, potassium bicarbonate, which is one form of potassium, may be prescribed by a healthcare provider.

Several other forms of potassium supplements exist, including:

  • Potassium chloride
  • Potassium acetate
  • Potassium citrate
  • Potassium gluconate


It's important to note that too much potassium can be harmful. Potassium supplements should be taken with caution.

This article reviews the uses of potassium bicarbonate and some of the risks involved in supplementation.

 Dietary supplements are not regulated like drugs in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement tested by a trusted third party, such as USP, ConsumerLabs, or NSF. 

However, even if supplements are third-party tested, that doesn’t mean they are necessarily safe for all or effective in general. Therefore, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and check in about potential interactions with other supplements or medications.

Supplement Facts


  • Active Ingredient(s): Potassium bicarbonate
  • Suggested Dose: Adequate Intakes established, take as prescribed by a healthcare provider if needed
  • Safety Considerations: Avoid if you have kidney disease or Addison's disease. Discuss with healthcare provider before starting supplementation.

Uses of Potassium Bicarbonate

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

Potassium supplements can be used to treat or prevent low potassium levels. Blood potassium levels can be easily checked with a blood draw to determine if supplementation is needed.

While this article is specific to potassium bicarbonate, the potential uses are related to potassium supplementation in general. Your healthcare provider can discuss which form is most appropriate for your needs.

Below are the potential uses in which potassium supplementation may have a role.

Health benefits of potassium bicarbonate

Verywell / Cindy Chung

Hypokalemia

Hypokalemia (low levels of potassium in the blood) can lead to serious health problems. Potassium supplementation helps return potassium to normal levels in the body.

This happens frequently in hospitalized patients. They may be prescribed oral (by mouth) or intravenous (IV, into the vein) potassium.

Certain health conditions or medications can cause persistent hypokalemia. In these cases, you may need potassium supplementation over a longer period.

Hypokalemia can be a side effect of certain medications, including:

Blood Pressure

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is designed to help lower blood pressure. It includes many potassium-rich foods. In fact, the DASH diet provides three times the amount of potassium compared to the typical American diet.

The following research looks at the role of potassium in reducing blood pressure:

  • A large meta-analysis published in International Journal of Cardiology found that potassium supplementation significantly reduced blood pressure. It was particularly helpful for people with hypertension (high blood pressure) who had a high sodium intake but low potassium intake in their diet.
  • A second meta-analysis in the Journal of Hypertension also showed that potassium supplementation lowered blood pressure.
  • One study that looked at only six of the strongest studies on potassium supplementation found no significant improvement in blood pressure with potassium supplementation. However, this study is older than the studies mentioned above.

It is important to note that not all of the reviews included meta-analyses that used potassium bicarbonate as the form of supplementation.

However, based on the research, the FDA has approved the health claim that diets containing potassium-rich foods that are low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.

Bone Health

Potassium may play a role in improving bone health.

In one study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, people received 60 milliequivalents of potassium citrate or a placebo for years. Bone mineral density (BMD) improved significantly with potassium supplementation compared to placebo.

Yet another trial in post-menopausal individuals did not find that supplementation with potassium citrate improved BMD or reduce bone turnover.

Further research is needed to determine the mechanism by which potassium may preserve bone health and whether supplementation should be recommended. Note that these studies evaluate potassium citrate and not potassium bicarbonate.

Kidney Stones

There is some evidence that higher potassium intake may prevent the development of kidney stones.

Two large studies found that a high intake of potassium was associated with a lower risk of developing kidney stones. However, it should be noted that this does not establish a cause-and-effect relationship. Additionally, the higher potassium intake was not necessarily from supplementation. More research has suggested that increasing potassium intake may lower how much calcium is excreted in the urine, which in turn helps manage hypercalciuria (excessive calcium in the urine) and kidney stones.

Further research in the form of a clinical trial is needed to determine if potassium supplements can prevent kidney stones.

Stroke

Higher intakes of potassium may help prevent stroke.

Two separate meta-analyses found a reduction in stroke occurrence in those that had higher potassium intake. Higher intakes of potassium (greater than 155 millimoles per day) resulted in a 24% reduction in stroke.

Another meta-analysis found an inverse relationship between potassium intake and the risk of stroke. The higher potassium intake was associated with a reduced risk of stroke. Approximately 3,500 milligrams (mg) of potassium per day were needed to see the reduced risk.

Potassium Deficiency

Generally speaking, nutrient deficiencies (including potassium) occur due to too little food intake or a high amount of nutrient loss.

Most people get enough potassium through their diet. More commonly, someone may be deficient in potassium because of more significant losses. Potassium losses can occur through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract or the kidneys.

What Causes a Potassium Deficiency?

Potassium deficiency is most often due to increased losses. Potassium losses can occur through diuretic use or GI losses.

Some diuretics (also known as "water pills") cause higher amounts of potassium to be excreted. Additionally, some health conditions can cause diarrhea that results in potassium loss through the GI tract. Potassium deficiency can also occur as a result of laxative abuse, which can lead to GI symptoms like diarrhea.

Groups At Risk of Potassium Deficiency

You may be at risk of potassium deficiency if you:

  • Take diuretics: Discuss with your healthcare provider to find out if you need supplemental potassium. Potassium supplements are frequently prescribed by healthcare providers along with diuretics that increase potassium losses.
  • Have GI conditions that make you prone to diarrhea, such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
  • Abuse laxatives
  • Have pica, which is the persistent eating of non-nutritive substances

How Do I Know If I Have a Potassium Deficiency?

Signs of a possible potassium deficiency include:

  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Malaise, or feeling of genera; discomfort

Your potassium level can be checked in your blood. Potassium levels are part of a basic chemistry panel. Normal blood potassium levels are 3.6 to 5 millimoles per liter, but potassium levels can change significantly from day to day.

What Are the Side Effects of Potassium Bicarbonate?

There may be some side effects from supplementing with potassium bicarbonate (and potassium in general). Talk to a healthcare provider about the risk for side effects.

Potassium bicarbonate increases potassium levels. Having high potassium levels (hyperkalemia) is a health concern and can cause serious symptoms such as:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Vomiting

More serious side effects of consuming too much potassium can include:

  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Excessive weakness (especially in the legs)
  • Irregular heartbeat or palpitations
  • Severe abdominal cramps
  • Trouble breathing

Contact a healthcare provider and stop taking the supplement right away if any of these side effects occur.

Precautions

If you have kidney disease, talk to your healthcare provider before taking potassium supplements. People with kidney disease often have high blood levels of potassium. Your healthcare provider may instruct you to avoid high-potassium foods and limit your intake to less than 2,000 milligrams daily.

Addison's disease (a disorder that affects your adrenal glands) can also lead to high potassium levels. Therefore, potassium supplementation is not recommended.

If you are pregnant or nursing, discuss with your healthcare provider if you need potassium and weigh the risks and benefits to you and your baby.

Dosage: How Much Potassium Bicarbonate Should I Take?

There is no Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for potassium bicarbonate. However, there are Adequate Intakes (AIs) of potassium. AI refers to the recommended average daily nutrient level in healthy people.

The recommended maximum daily dosage limit for potassium bicarbonate is 200 milliequivalents (mEq) per day in people up to 60 years old and 100 milliequivalents in people 60 years and older.

What Happens If I Take Too Much Potassium Bicarbonate?

If you take too much potassium bicarbonate, you are more likely to experience side effects such as nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, or diarrhea. Although not as common, some may experience an irregular heartbeat.

It is possible for death to occur from too much potassium intake, but it is rarely reported. The kidneys regulate potassium balance in the body. Assuming normal kidney function, excess potassium will be filtered through the kidneys and excreted in the urine.

Interactions

There are several different medications that can affect the amount of potassium in your body.

Some medications may affect potassium levels in the body. Talk to a healthcare provider about taking potassium bicarbonate if you are also taking one of the following medications:

Food Interactions

Some people use salt substitutes in food to lower their overall sodium intake. Most salt substitutes replace sodium with potassium. The potassium content of salt substitutes ranges from 440 to 2,800 milligrams (mg) of potassium per teaspoon. This should be included in the total potassium intake. Salt substitutes should be avoided while on potassium supplementation.

How to Store Potassium Bicarbonate

Potassium supplements should be stored in a tightly closed container. Keep them protected from heat, moisture, and light.

As with all medications and supplements, store out of reach of children and pets.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is potassium bicarbonate the same as baking soda?

    No. Potassium bicarbonate—also known as potassium acid carbonate—is not baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). However, potassium bicarbonate can be used as a low-sodium alternative to baking soda. Use the same amount of potassium bicarbonate as baking soda in recipes.

  • Is it safe to eat potassium bicarbonate?

    Yes, potassium bicarbonate is safe to eat if you are generally healthy, but you don't want to overdo it. The FDA limits potassium bicarbonate supplements to less than 100 milligrams per serving. You should not take potassium bicarbonate along with other sources of potassium. Taking too much potassium can cause serious heart complications.

  • Who should not take potassium bicarbonate?

    Most people can safely take potassium bicarbonate in regular doses. However, you should not take potassium supplements in any form if you have a condition known as hyperkalemia.

    Potassium bicarbonate may interact with some medications that affect potassium levels. These include ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, diuretics, NSAIDs, and steroids. If you take any of these medications, talk to your healthcare provider before taking potassium bicarbonate. 

    In addition, be careful using salt substitutes while taking potassium bicarbonate. Most salt substitutes contain potassium. Taking too much potassium can cause heart problems. 

Sources of Potassium & What To Look For

Potassium is widely available in a variety of foods that we eat. It is also available as an individual supplement or in multi-nutrient supplements.

Food Sources of Potassium

High-potassium foods include:

  • Fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, oranges, cantaloupes, and avocado
  • Beans, mainly lime, kidney, and black beans
  • Some fish, such as salmon, flounder, and cod

Many salt substitutes replace sodium with potassium.

Potassium Supplements

Potassium supplements are available as pills or tablets, liquids, and powders.

Several forms of potassium supplements are available, including potassium chloride, potassium bicarbonate, potassium acetate, potassium gluconate, and potassium citrate. All forms are absorbed in the body equally as well.

The Supplement Facts label should include the amount of elemental potassium. Potassium is often referred to in amounts of milliequivalents (mEq) or milligrams (mg). For conversion, 1 milliequivalent is equal to 39.09 milligrams of potassium.

Potassium supplements will come with a warning if they provide greater than 99 milligrams of potassium. This is because some potassium salts have led to small-bowel lesions.

Look for supplements tested by a trusted third party, such as USP, ConsumerLabs, or NSF. However, even if supplements are third-party tested, that doesn’t mean they are safe or effective. If you're considering taking potassium supplements, consult your healthcare provider to determine whether it's an appropriate option.

Summary

Healthy people can maintain potassium balance in their bodies quite easily. Most get enough potassium through their diet. However, some health conditions or medications may cause low potassium levels (hyperkalemia), requiring some people to take potassium in supplement form. Potassium bicarbonate is one available form of potassium supplement.

Before starting any new supplement, talk to your healthcare provider about your current prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medication use. Certain drugs may affect potassium levels in your body; therefore, potassium supplementation could lead to serious health problems if taken with these medications.

Potassium supplements are available for those that may benefit. However, too much potassium can be harmful, so checking in with your healthcare provider before taking supplements is important.

21 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute of Health. Potassium - fact sheet for health professionals.

  2. Viera AJ, Wouk N. Potassium disorders: hypokalemia and hyperkalemia. Am Fam Physician. 2015;92(6):487-495. PMID: 26371733.

  3. Veltri KT, Mason C. Medication-induced hypokalemia. P T. 2015;40(3):185-190.

  4. Filippini T, Violi F, D’Amico R, Vinceti M. The effect of potassium supplementation on blood pressure in hypertensive subjects: A systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Cardiology. 2017;230:127-135. doi:10.1016/j.ijcard.2016.12.048

  5. Binia A, Jaeger J, Hu Y, Singh A, Zimmermann D. Daily potassium intake and sodium-to-potassium ratio in the reduction of blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Hypertension. 2015;33(8):1509-1520. doi:10.1097/HJH.0000000000000611

  6. Dickinson HO, Nicolson DJ, Campbell F, Beyer FR, Mason J. Potassium supplementation for the management of primary hypertension in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006 Jul 19;(3):CD004641. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004641.pub2

  7. Jehle S, Hulter HN, Krapf R. Effect of potassium citrate on bone density, microarchitecture, and fracture risk in healthy older adults without osteoporosis: a randomized controlled trial. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2013;98(1):207-217. doi:10.1210/jc.2012-3099

  8. Macdonald HM, Black AJ, Aucott L, et al. Effect of potassium citrate supplementation or increased fruit and vegetable intake on bone metabolism in healthy postmenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008;88(2):465-474. doi:10.1093/ajcn/88.2.465

  9. He FJ, MacGregor GA. Beneficial effects of potassium on human health. Physiol Plant. 2008;133(4):725-735. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-3054.2007.01033.x

  10. Curhan GC. Comparison of dietary calcium with supplemental calcium and other nutrients as factors affecting the risk for kidney stones in women. Ann Intern Med. 1997;126(7):497. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-126-7-199704010-00001

  11. D’Elia L, Barba G, Cappuccio FP, Strazzullo P. Potassium intake, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2011;57(10):1210-1219. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2010.09.070

  12. Aburto NJ, Hanson S, Gutierrez H, et al. Effect of increased potassium intake on cardiovascular risk factors and disease: systematic review and meta-analyses. BMJ. 2013;346(apr03 3):f1378-f1378. doi:10.1136/bmj.f1378

  13. Vinceti M, Filippini T, Crippa A, de Sesmaisons A, Wise LA, Orsini N. Meta-analysis of potassium intake and the risk of stroke. JAHA. 2016;5(10):e004210. doi:10.1161/JAHA.116.004210

  14. National Kidney Foundation. Hyperkalemia (high potassium).

  15. Yamada S, Inaba M. Potassium metabolism and management in patients with CKD. Nutrients. 2021 May 21;13(6):1751. doi:10.3390/nu13061751

  16. MedlinePlus. Autoimmune Addison disease.

  17. U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Library. DRI glossary.

  18. Food and Drug Administration. CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21.

  19. Mount Sinai. Potassium.

  20. Sahil F, Kumar J, Raiz G, Bhutto NS, et al. Association between long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and hyperkalemia in diabetic patients. Cureus. 2021;13(6):e15648. doi: 10.7759/cureus.15648

  21. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Food sources of potassium.

Additional Reading
  • Adebamowo SN, Spiegelman D, Flint AJ, Willett WC, Rexrode KM. Intakes of magnesium, potassium, and calcium and the risk of stroke among men. Int J Stroke. 2015 Oct;10(7):1093-1100. doi:10.1111/ijs.12516

  • Dawson-Hughes B, Harris SS, Palermo NJ, et al. Potassium Bicarbonate Supplementation Lowers Bone Turnover and Calcium Excretion in Older Men and Women: A Randomized Dose-Finding Trial. J Bone Miner Res. 2015;30:2103-2111. doi:10.1002/jbmr.2554

  • Seth A, Mossavar-Rahmani Y, Kamensky V, et al. Potassium intake and risk of stroke in women with hypertension and nonhypertension in the Women's Health Initiative. Stroke. 2014;45:2874-2880. doi:10.1161/STROKEAHA.114.006046

By Jennifer Lefton, MS, RD/N, CNSC, FAND
Jennifer Lefton, MS, RD/N-AP, CNSC, FAND is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist and writer with over 20 years of experience in clinical nutrition. Her experience ranges from counseling cardiac rehabilitation clients to managing the nutrition needs of complex surgical patients.

Originally written by
Amber J. Tresca
Amber J. Tresca
Amber J. Tresca is a freelance writer and speaker who covers digestive conditions, including IBD. She was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 16.
Learn about our editorial process